'Dawn of the Planet of the Apes': Fox Previews 20 Minutes of New Footage

Caesar himself, actor Andy Serkis, introduced an exclusive preview of roughly 20 minutes of Fox’s upcoming Dawn of the Planet of the Apes recently before a small group from the press, revealing what looks to be a promising tentpole. Serkis said the July 11 release has upped the scale and scope of the first film while again focusing on the characters' struggles and themes including family, empathy and prejudice.

The classic franchise had its successful reboot in 2011 with helmer Rupert Wyatt. The sequel is helmed by Matt Reeves (Cloverfield), whom Serkis called a "great actors' director' who "always went for the drama … and the heart of the emotion."

PHOTOS: 35 of 2014's Most Anticipated Movies

The film picks up 10 years after the events depicted in the first movie. A pandemic has left the apes and only a small number of human survivors in San Francisco. Caesar (Serkis) -- the chimpanzee who in the first film had a loving upbringing by the humans and then was forced to fight for his freedom -- is now a parent and the leader of an egalitarian society of apes, what Serkis described as an “idealistic Garden of Eden.”

Caesar believes that the humans have vanished from society, until, as shown in the first clip, he and his fellow apes encounter a small band of humans, including the character Malcolm (Jason Clarke), searching Muir Woods for supplies as they struggle to survive. As the two species come face to face, each is fearful of the other; the humans initially draw their weapons before retreating.

Serkis explained that Caesar is “shattered,” as he must protect his colony, and at the same time he’s conflicted as he is drawn back to the human world. “He understands their plight and wants to find an accord with them."

This internal struggle is again evident in the second clip, during which Caesar and other apes share varying thoughts and stances on how to respond to the encounter with the humans. Caesar doesn’t want a war, uttering the words, “family … home … future.” The apes now have a "language" that combines vocalizations with sounds, gestures and a sort of sign language.

Another exchange following the meeting shows Caesar with the ape Koba. Explained Serkis: “Koba was tortured by the humans [10 years earlier in the lab] and Caesar has made him a part of the community. They are like brothers.”

Q&A: Honoree Andy Serkis on 'Finding the Essence of Performance'

In the next clip, Dreyfus (Gary Oldman) is a human who, like Caesar, is trying to keep his colony together. But he blames the apes for the pandemic and wants to wipe them out. Malcolm, however, believes co-existence is the right approach.

When the apes surround the human's base en masse, Caesar warns that they are not looking for a conflict but will fight if they must.

In the fourth clip, the humans are trying to reactivate a hydroelectric plant and Caesar tries to help. Here, Malcolm’s wife (Keri Russell) shares a quiet moment with Caesar’s young son.

The final clip is another peaceful scene, this time between the elderly orangutan Maurice and Malcolm’s son (Kodi Smit-McPhee), who look at a book together.

VIDEO: 'Dawn of the Planet of the Apes' Gets TV Spot, Poster

The preview also included several split screens of the actors and finished CG characters, along with the latest trailer.

Serkis said the performance capture -- again handled by Peter Jackson’s Weta Digital -- has further advanced since the first film, and he added that Dawn contains more such work than any film to date.

He also emphasized the role of the actor when using the VFX technique, saying that ”the authorship of the role, that’s on-set with the director and actors.”

Email: Carolyn.Giardina@THR.com
Twitter: @CGinLA